There are a lot of different news/media outlets that cover the Rangers on a day-to-day basis. Most provide pretty typical coverage. Then there’s another way some others approach it.
Prior to Thursday’s game, I had the chance to talk to someone who covers baseball the other way. Levi Weaver from The Athletic DFW was kind enough to share his thoughts on the state of the Texas Rangers past, present, and future. I asked him about the team down the stretch and how the team could look in 2020 with the new Globe Life Field.
- Which September call up are you looking forward to seeing?
Levi: Sentimentally, I would love to see a Tim Dillard call-up, because I am a sucker for sentimental call-ups (as the Rangers did with Guilder Rodriguez in 2014), and also, he has been pretty good at times in AAA this season. So that’s the decision from my heart. The decision from my head is Brock Burke, just because I’m intrigued by the Hearn/Palumbo/Allard/Burke quartet heading into 2020, and the more I get to watch them, the better.
Kolby Allard, Filthy K (Changeup & 2 Sliders). 😨 pic.twitter.com/1WKWaLnrRm
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 14, 2019
- What’s the one change between the 2018 and 2019 club?
Levi: The attitude. Chris Woodward and his coaching staff have been such a positive / calming presence. That’s not a knock on the Jeff Banister administration — Anthony Iapoce was one of the most positive people I’ve ever met — but there just seems to be more unity this year, and the general attitude has shifted from a grit / tough / fight mentality to one of more openly and honestly embracing where the team is: trying to come out of a rebuild. By that, I mean that there has been less pressure to succeed in the win column and more emphasis on succeeding in the process of becoming better players so that when the next window of contention opens — hopefully in 2020 or 2021 — the players are equipped to be the best versions of themselves.
- Out of Odor, Mazara,and Guzman, who do you see taking the next step in 2020?
Levi: I think that Odor has the highest ceiling, Mazara has the highest floor, and Guzmán will take the biggest step in 2020, simply due to the thought that “it can’t get worse than it was in 2019”. But that next step for Guzmán might be “okay, he’s back to where he was in 2018”. In an ideal world, two of those guys are all-stars, and one is a regular starter for ten years. In the worst-case scenario, they’re all busts and the window of contention either doesn’t happen on schedule or happens after they are jettisoned for other players.
— Nashville Sounds (@nashvillesounds) August 5, 2019
- Who have you been the most impressed with in 2019?
Levi: Danny Santana and Hunter Pence, for similar-but-different reasons. Both were signed to minor-league deals, and both played their way into the lineup. The difference is that Pence was an All-Star and will probably be elsewhere in 2020, and Santana has put himself firmly in the club’s plans moving forward.
- What is your assessment of the moves, or lack of moves, by the club during the trade deadline?
Levi: I thought they should have traded Pence, as much as I’d hate to see him go, but I can understand why they kept everyone else. I do think the early returns on the Martin-for-Allard trade have been great. Allard looks like a rotation candidate for 2020 (though I’d like to see him find a way to last into the 7th inning or so).
- With Isiah Kiner-Falefa showing some good results at third, and talk about Danny Santana moving to third in the offeseason, do you still see Santana as a potential fit for the Rangers at third base?
Levi: I think it makes a lot of sense to slide Santana over to third either later this season or in the offseason, which would allow Texas to focus its free-agent budget on someone like Gerrit Cole. I like Kiner-Falefa in a super-utility role; I’d love to see him get some time in center field. If he could play there, he could be an every-day player, similar to Ben Zobrist or Michael Young’s later years in Texas. That’s a huge value.
- Do you see the Rangers pursuing Joey Gallo as a center fielder or a corner outfielder?
Levi: He makes more sense as a corner guy, but there are a lot of factors. If Nomar Mazara and Shin-Soo Choo are still Rangers in 2020, center field makes more sense, but if they find a trade partner for either one, Willie Calhoun could slide into a more full-time DH role and let Gallo go to left field, where I think he will be long-term anyway. It’s just a matter of when.
Joey Gallo hit 95.8 MPH on this throw 💪
— SI MLB (@si_mlb) May 18, 2019
- Do you see the Rangers making some splashes in the offseason?
Levi: I think they’ll be in the market for Gerrit Cole. Any time a team moves into a new stadium, they want to have a good product on the field and a Cole / Miner / Lynn trio at the top of the rotation would be pretty impressive. If they can’t outbid the Angels or Dodgers or whomever, then it gets tricky. Maybe Stephen Strasburg opts out of his $25m 2020 contract? Or Hyun-Jin Ryu? Cleveland will almost certainly pick up Kluber’s $17.5m option. Beyond that, there are enough young starting pitchers in the offing that I don’t think they’d play too hard in the secondary starting pitching market, so maybe they turn their attention to a trade? But that’s tricky, too — Mazara and Odor make the most sense, but neither has a ton of trade value at the moment. Either way, I think the 2019-20 offseason will be more interesting than the 2018-19 version.
- What made you have this outside the box way of approaching day-to-day baseball coverage?
Levi: It wasn’t so much a choice as it was just a recognition that I don’t know any other way to do it. Baseball is such a long season with so few off days that if I had to write boring 500-word articles about every transaction and typical three-quotes-and-a-lede game stories, I don’t think I would make it through an entire season without dissolving into a puddle of boredom and evaporating into the sky. I feel really fortunate to work for an employer that likes what I do and is happy to let me just go be as weird or nerdy or poetic as I feel like being that day.
- Will we ever see a Sonny and Cher rendition between you and Emily Jones?
Levi: No, but for the right donation to charity, I could be talked into a Johnny and June Cash thing. Maybe Jackson? I could do Jackson.
The season is coming down to the final month and a half and there’s a lot to look forward to, despite the past results. The Rangers may still be in their rebuild, but this season orchestrated some decent and even surprising results. There’s certainly a lot more excitement roaming through the Rangers farm system rather than any dread
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